It turns out that some of the most famours cornish smugglers – the Carters of Prussia – operated out of Prussia cove which we came across on one of our coastal walks over the Christmas period. It was the main picture from last week’s blog but can be seen below as well. Two brothers John and Harry Carter ran the smuggling business. Allegedly John named Prussia cove because he admired Frederik the Great, King of Prussia. Prussia Cove actually consists of four small coves and from west to east these are Piskies, Bessy’s, King’s and Coule’s. Our picture is of Bessy’s cove – very scenic.
Also John’s nickname was the King of Prussia. One story said John was nicknamed King of Prussia in boyhood games and kept the title as an adult. Another story was that he earned the title as he engaged with more daring encounters with Customs men. A third story was that he looked like Frederick of Prussia though not sure how in that day and age they would know in detail what a foreign king would look like so I feel less likely to believe that version!
From the sheltered and secluded haven of Prussia cove they held sway over the smuggling trade from 1770 to 1807. Some of the many caves were reputed to be connected with the houses above by secret passages.
Smuggling was rife then because high duties had been imposed on luxury items such as wine, spirits and tobacco to help pay for the wars the Britain was fighting, mostly against France.
Apparently despite the profession, John Carter was a devout Methodist and was noted for his honesty!! One time while he was away, the excise officers retrieved a recently arrived cargo of tea to the Penzance custom house. On his return, Carter and his men broke into the stores during the night and carried off the confiscated cargo but not taking anything else. The excise men knew immediately who it was given his honest reputation.
In 1807 he mysteriously disappeared and was presumed dead. His brother Harry Carter wrote a book in 1809 “The Autobiography of a Cornish Smuggle” which you can still buy on amazon and I thought it might be interesting to read. But on reading a review, there is apparently very little about smuggling in the book but more about his personal spiritual journey as a God seeking Methodist after abandoning the illegal life of a smuggler!
In 1825 the building of a Coastguard Station at Prussia Cove finally put an end to smuggling there.
When I told my brother about a chap I met called Jim who was walking round the UK coastal path (see previous blog) he was surprised that the UK coastal path was ready as a friend of his was working on the Kent section. So I looked it up and it said on a government website (https://www.gov.uk/government/collection.s/england-coast-path-improving-public-access-to-the-coast ) that:
“Work is well underway on the England Coast Path – a new National Trail around all of England’s coast. Natural England expects to complete work on the England Coast Path in 2020”
On the site you can access progress maps which shows which stretches are:
- approved but not yet open
- not yet approved
- in development
When it is complete the England Coast Path will be 2795 miles long and will be the longest managed and waymarked coastal path in the world!
So obviously Jim is walking what he can. Jim’s last post was his walk from Fowey to Polperro. It was a hard walk he said on his Facebook page as lots of steep inclines but the scenery was magnificent. The temperature got up to 12/13c and he said “It is the first time ever that I got a sun burned head in January in the UK”!